REHAB: THE UNLIKELY HERO
INTRODUCTION: WHAT DOES A HERO REALLY LOOK LIKE?
Today, I am so excited to talk about, “Heroes: The Ordinary Turned Extraordinary”. What we’re going to be doing in this is taking a close look at some characters of the Bible that God used in just amazing ways. And what we’ll find, over and over again, is that these characters – these individuals named and talked about in Scripture – for all practical purposes are not those that we would have expected to fit the bill as God’s chosen servants. But as the saying goes, “God does not choose the qualified; He qualifies the chosen.” Indeed, we will hear some amazing stories of how God took ordinary men and women like you and i and did some amazing and extraordinary things through them. These individuals ultimately become heroes in the story of God.
IF GOD CAN USE A PROSTITUTE
This is the repeated story of the Bible. Over and over again, we see this particular script written on page after page. Ordinary Joe or Ordinary Jane, being used by God in extraordinary ways. And this was the case of Rehab as we read in Scripture today. In fact, Rehab’s story is even more amazing in the sense that she is not just the ordinary but she is the implausible made plausible turned extraordinary, she is the unlikely hero. And yet, God chooses her for great purposes beyond what I’m sure she could have possibly imagined.
Now, I don’t know what comes to your mind when you think about what a hero would like, but back in the days of Rehab, no one would have possibly imagined that a hero could look like her. In fact, Rehab is indeed the most unlikely hero who in her day and culture had many strikes against her. She simply did not seem like Bible hero material. First of all, we know that she was a Canaanite. The Bible in Joshua 2 sets up the scene where the two spies are sent to Jericho. That’s where they (and we) meet Rehab for the first time – in the capital city of Canaan. This is her home which makes her a Canaanite and not a Jew. Now this is important to note, because for all practical purposes, from the perspective of the Jews – God’s chosen people – Rehab as a Canaanite would have been considered a foreigner and therefore unclean. She would be seen as a heathen and enemy of God. That’s strike one.
But the second strike was that Rehab was a woman. Okay, I know this observation is not necessarily something that you need a prophet to point out for you. But frankly, women were not considered very significant back in those days. In fact, there is an old daily Jewish prayer that simply went like this: “I thank God that I was not born a woman.” This attitude was quite prevalent in many of the ancient societies back then and in fact, I believe, women are still fighting for their rights in many of those societies even today. Rehab was a woman. That’s strike two.
Now, the third strike is most obvious. Can you guess what it is? That’s right. Its right there in verse one of Joshua chapter 2. Rehab was a prostitute. Strike three. And let’s assume here for a moment that it doesn’t bother us that God was working through a Canaanite. Obviously, not everyone could be an Israelite, right? And let’s even imagine that in the chauvinistic culture in which Rehab lived that God could actually work through a woman. But the idea of God choosing a prostitute for Kingdom sized work? That’s simply amazing to me. But that’s exactly what happened. God chose a woman – a Canaanite prostitute to save the lives of two of God’s servants who were sent on a mission into enemy territory.
The Bible tells us that the lives of these two spies were in danger. The King of Jericho had found out that Israel had sent these individuals to spy out their land. Not only that, the King of Jericho was told where these two spies were staying – at Rehab’s house. Now, it doesn’t take a genius here to figure out what the King of Jericho wanted to do at that point. He wanted those two spies found, captured and most likely, executed. So he sends his men to Rehab’s house with the message for her to hand them over. Rehab’s response? She hides them on the roof and sends the King’s men on a rabbit chase elsewhere. At this point, we need to know something very clear. Rehab took a risk. She put her own life in danger in order to save these two spies. This unlikely hero, this Canaanite woman who was in fact less than ordinary, was made extraordinary for God’s purposes.
SOME ADDITIONAL DETAILS ABOUT RAHAB WE NEED TO KNOW
Now, let me pause here for a moment to point out a couple details that we may easily overlook – details that are absolutely important to this story. There is a clue in the verses that we read that though Rehabè is identified as “the prostitute”, it is very likely that she is no longer in that profession. Clue number one is that the Bible says she hid the spies underneath stalks of flax. I’m not sure if you understand this or not, but gathering flax was a tedious and laborious task. Industrious women like Rehab would spend hours gathering these stalks to make cloth. If Rehab was still a prostitute, chances are that she would not be gathering flax. She simply would not have the time for this kind of respectable work, and yet, the Bible said that she had gathered enough flax to cover two grown men. Apparently, she must have been in the cloth business for some time. There is this clue here that tells us that she went through some transformation in her life. Although the people in Jericho might still refer to her as a prostitute because of her past, we can assume that her life had significantly changed.
I want to believe that her life had changed because of what she had come to know of the God of Israel. This is what we read of her own proclamation in Joshua 2:9-11:
“I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fearè of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt…. When we heard of it, our hearts melted…for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
The Bible reveals that Rehab knew the God of the two spies, the God of creation, the God of heaven above and the God of the earth below. And there is this sense that regardless of theological technicality, for all practical purposes, she was a believer and she had put herself in a place where she can be used by God. It didn’t matter what her past was. It didn’t matter what others still thought of her now. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t a Jew. Somehow she knew and understood the power of God and then made a decision to surrender herself to that power. And in that moment, the less than ordinary became extraordinary; the unlikely became a hero for God.
THE BIBLE’S ONGOING TRIBUTE TO RAHAB AND ONGOING INVITATION TO US
You need to know that Rehab’s heroic act is actually celebrated over and over again in Scripture. If you look in the Gospel of Matthew, she is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus, then James refers to her as he talks about what it means to have faith that leads to action, and then finally, in what we will call the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews chapter 11, it says this about Rehab:
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people marched aroundè them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rehab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
I don’t know if you can fully grasp this, but to once have been a Canaanite prostitute and mentioned this many times in Hebrew Scripture, even in the lineage of Jesus – this is simply amazing. But here’s the more amazing thing. If God can use someone like Rehab – take the less than ordinary and through her do some extraordinary things, he can do the same with you. He’s done it through countless others throughout history. And I want you to consider today the possibility that in your own unique way and in your own unique situation that you, too, can become a hero and be used for some significant purpose in the Kingdom of God. Perhaps, it might not be as dramatic as lowering spies down the wall to their safety and to their lives, and perhaps it might not be as significant as moving to Darjeeling or Calcutta to work with the poorest of the poor, but it could certainly be something as simple as “being the pencil with which God writes His love letter to others.”
Friends, I believe God is calling each and every one of us to do some extraordinary things today. God is in the business of making and using heroes. And you don’t have to be qualified to be called. But certainly, if you say yes to the call, God will qualify you and use you in ways that you have never imagined before. So, let’s be a Rehab and invite God to use us – boldly, intentionally, willingly and most importantly – extraordinarily. Amen?!